Merry Christmas to all

PFT

Christmas morning 2018. Years from now, kids throughout the world will instantly think of Christmas morning 2018 when remembering the best gift they ever received.

Mine was Christmas morning 1975.

The memory remains vivid, a full 43 years later. A 10-year-old who loved pro football craved a way to bring the game into his own small corner of a 1,500-square-foot-at-most two-story brick house built smack dab in a flood plain. Stacks of Topps football cards, held together with rubber bands because the last thing anyone thought of in those days was keeping them in mint condition, would be sorted and drafted into a full offense and a full defense of best players of the era, and I’d arrange them on the shag carpet of the tiny guest room with a fold-out couch that I don’t remember many guests actually ever staying in.

It was a lame endeavor but it was all I had in the early weeks of football season, 1975. Then came the bigger-than-a-phone-book Sears catalog. It always showed up in early September, and this time I flipped straight to the pages that had the expensive toys. The toys that ran on more than batteries. The toys that were special enough to actually plug in to the wall.

And there it was. Tudor electric football. I employed no subtlety or nuance to make sure my mom knew I wanted it. But I also realized that, given its placement in the expensive toy section of the Sears catalog, there was a very good chance that “maybe next year” would be the message.

I still held out hope, wishing the twelfth month of the year away through the milestone dates that always made it feel like Christmas was actually getting closer. December 10, December 15. December 20. December 24.

Christmas morning 1975, I ran down the steps and did an immediate scan of the gift piles. And I knew instantly that nothing under that tree was big enough to be the thing I wanted most. It was a strange feeling, tearing through the collection of things I’d asked for, things I hadn’t, and things I knew I didn’t want but tried to act grateful to receive (tried), all the while dealing with that nagging disappointment that the one big gift had become a “maybe next year” wish, which for a 10-year-old may as well have been a “maybe 100 years from now” pipe dream.

Of course, they fooled me. They always did. While I was messing around with whatever board game or action figure had first drawn my attention after everything was open and it was time to play, my mom or my dad or my sister had snuck out of the room, quietly returned, and placed one last package against the wall to the side of the tree. I eventually looked up and saw a long, thin rectangular box ensconced in the colors of the Sunday comics section and I pounced, pulling it toward the floor while pushing lesser gifts out of the way, ripping away Dagwood and his friend to find what I knew was inside.

I admired the box for a long time before even opening it, looking at the pictures and reading whatever writing was on it. I was too young to understand that I was deliberately savoring the moment, burning it into my brain.

It was a toy that brought equal parts fascination and frustration. It took what seemed like 10 minutes to set up all the players for each snap, only to flip the switch, hear the loud rumblings of the motor that vibrated the board, and watch as, more often than not, chaos ensued.

For every player on top of a green base that managed to move in a straight line, another would instantly launch into a drunken square dance. Ultimately, I didn’t care. It was far better than the football-card alternative, and so I dug in and didn’t let go.

It came with directions and rules, but I realized that, unlike board games that require the structure and order, I could do whatever I wanted in the world of electric football. I came up with what seemed to be more practical allowances for the passing game (the ball was manually thrown from behind the quarterback, with three tries to hit the intended receiver on the fly) for tackling (the ball carrier had to be struck with the front of the defender’s base) for determining the length of a full game (then again, I’m not sure I ever actually finished one).

On balance, I loved it. My version came with the Browns and Steelers but in time I’d send away for more teams (I probably had a dozen in all), along with more of those tiny foam footballs became needles in haystacks once they sunk deep into the carpet.

Within a year or two, I accidentally stepped on the metal board, leaving a large dent in one end zone that, I’d instantly learn, drew the players to that spot like the flat-topped mountain in Close Encounters. So off went Tudor electric football to the place were all outdated toys go to not be played with: The attic.

I’d eventually get another one, but the one seemed a lot smaller and it wasn’t nearly as special as the first one. And at times like this I wonder how much that first one had to do with forging a bond that carried me all these years later into the sport that fills mostly every hour of every day, the job that rarely ever feels like one, the life I wouldn’t trade for anything.

So thanks Mom, wherever you may be, for throwing just the right log onto the fire at what may have been just the right time. Here’s hoping that kids throughout the world have that same thing happen for them on Christmas morning 2018.

51 responses to “Merry Christmas to all

  1. Nice post Mike. I can relate, I got a Tudor Electric Football Game one Christmas. I’m a little older than you and got mine around 1957 (I’m too old to remember exactly which year). Back then the players weren’t as pretty as yours. Each team was a mono color with much less defined features, but I loved it every bit as much as you did yours! Merry Christmas!

  2. Thanks for the memories, Mike. I had one of these too, and you described it pretty perfectly. I wonder if the toy and memory are a metaphor for your desire for the big time, making your own rules, and perhaps even the surprise of achieving it? Congratulations on your site and your success. Even though I suspect we root for different (NY?) teams, you have a great site that many of us turn to frequently. Happy holidays!

  3. My favorite game was “Talking Football”, it was around 1970 or so. It had a board to move a plastic football to the appropriate yardlines but that wasn’t the part that was fun. The way the game was played is you had a mini record ( vinyl, like the others of the time), and they all had plays like draw, long pass, off tackle, etc. You chose the record of the offensive play you wanted, stuck it in the mini player about halfway, with only the defensive options showing, sticking up in a wheel formation and handed it to your opponent. He could only see defensive options on the edge, the offensive play was now submerged. Once he chose blitz or nickel or short run defense, he shoved the record all the way in once he rotated it to the defense he liked, the others weren’t visible, once you rotated it to the one you like. When you shoved it in, now with your opponent having chosen the play that he thought would stop the offensive play you chose , the record would play with a very southern sounding announcer..like “the blitz is on, the QB is sacked, 10 yards back , fumble!!!” You then had to put the special fumble record in to see who recovered. They also had punt and field goal records, that was pretty much luck of the draw, as opposed to the offensive plays where the defensive choice determined where the record would start and therefore the outcome of the play. If the announcer said ” gain of 15 yards” you simply moved the football forward 15 yards. If you committed a turnover, you simply handed your opponent the box of records and he now chose the offensive play and you only could see defensive options now. I can still hear the announcer saying ” here’s the punt , high, end over end and deep, helped by the wind, 50 yards! Fair catch!” I had that game for years , it finally got relegated to the basement after several years of fun!

  4. Great Christmas story. Merry Christmas, Mike. I read the new postings every day and appreciate greatly your devotion to your readers and the sport. I also appreciate your legal analysis of issues that other writers are unable to provide. Keep it going.

  5. Merry Christmas to you Mike, all of PFT, and every commentator. No matter what your beliefs, it is a time of unity, a time of humanity. Today I am not a Browns fan. Today I am a people fan. We can get back to bashing each other tomorrow!

    Incidentally – I got what I think was the 1978 version of electric football. Came with the Cowboys and Broncos and I had to put all the stickers for uniform numbers on the players. Loved that game…

    Peace all.

  6. Merry Christmas to all!!!

    (Even Viking fans).

  7. Thank you for sharing, Mike!

    What should be so inspiring to folks – whether they agree or disagree with you – is how you’ve been able to parlay a life-long passion into a career. Large swaths of the population can’t say that.

  8. Electric football, and that stupid little felt ball….impossible to throw a completion. Merry Christmas all.

  9. I’d almost have to call jinx here. We also had a little used den with a thick white shagged carpet that I used to sort out my sports cards on. Every year my family would buy me complete sets of all four sports from Renata Galasso for Christmas. At the time we had a huge 26 lb black cat named Alexander that would inevitably find his way into the room (one end had sliding push open doors) and sprawl his fat self all over my cards whenever I left them out on the carpet over night. That cat sure loved the feel of those smooth topps cards. I remember how ticked off I was when he creased my ’76 Walter Payton rookie card right down the middle. Although we didn’t know about centering, edges and corners back then…nobody wanted a creased card. Waiting for those first year cards like the Payton to hit was the best. I’ll never forget the year I got the Earl Campbell rookie card. The all pro cards were really cool too. The ’77 Ken Stabler and Cliff Branch all pros were a couple favorites of mine. I got the electric football game too but never really was into it like with the cards. Getting a Cliff Branch jersey for Christmas was just awesome too. A couple pair of boxing gloves was another favorite Christmas gift back then. So I could box with all the neighborhood kids having the extra pair of gloves to lend out. Good times.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Florio. Merry Christmas to you, yours and the rest of the PFT staff and readers.

  10. Great story, Merry Christmas Mike and to all at PFT, I may not agree with everything you say but I enjoy reading it anyway !

  11. “And there it was. Tudor electric football. I employed no subtlety or nuance to make sure my mom knew I wanted it. But I also realized that, given its placement in the expensive toy section of the Sears catalog, there was a very good chance that “maybe next year” would be the message.”

    =======================

    I still have mine. I have the Tudor model, but it came with generic red and blue teams. My best friend had the NFL version which came with the Vikings and Chiefs, because they played in SB IV. His didn’t have the little wheels in the base of the plastic players. They just went in whatever direction you pointed them in. He always got the good stuff. He had a huge permanent HO train set layout in the cellar and model plains to fly. Also a Jolly Green Giant kite which came with a Little Sprout parachute which floated down from the kite, and a four lane racetrack without the slots and much much more.

    I was happy for him. He is an awesome dude. Haven’t talked or seen him in several decades. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen anyone from my high school in at least a couple of decades. Most of them were pretty horrible, no great loss there.

    Any how, I wanted the Tudor football game so bad, and I annoyed my father so much, that he told me to look in the closet so I would shut up about it. Mine had the little wheels in the base of the players, I don’t know if they were called total control or something like that. I did get annoyed when some of the players would lock arms and dance in a circle. He bought it from the Sears Wishbook. For years and years I would eyeball all of the really expensive toys that my parents couldn’t afford and even if they were affordable, the house was too small to set up a full size race track or train set.

    My much older brother took everything out of my stocking and left a lump of coal. Everyone thought it was hysterical. I was a little kid and cried like a baby.

    If I could only turn back time.

    I have said enough.

    Merry Christmas to all.

  12. Great story, Mike! I enjoyed reading it. For me, it was a game called NFL Strategy. That game was so much fun that I’ve been looking for a vintage edition of the game in good condition just to relive my youth a little bit.

    Merry Christmas, Mike! Keep up the great work.

  13. I grew up on tecmo bowl. And then the even better super tecmo bowl. The first one was great but only had about maybe 12-16 teams? Not sure why they didn’t have all the teams but they upgraded the 2nd game and added every team. QB eagles was my guy but I remember you could block almost evry fg attempt when you used lawrence taylor and the giants. Good times. . . .

  14. I’ll never forget opening my n64 and immediately plugging up and firing up nfl qb club 98 (second gift) and playing packers vs cowboys with my little brother. It was my first football game and I look back now and laugh, the graphics were blocky and the controls a far cry from what they are now, but 12 year old me did not see it that way, and all of those hours with my brother will stay with me for the rest of my life. Merry Christmas everyone!

  15. I got mine around the same time. The electric motor failed after the first day. How disappointing !
    We loved the game so much we played it anyway by tapping on the field to make the players move.
    CHEERS

  16. Merry Christmas Mike! What a great story. We loved playing electric football too. And I have tons of old football cards that I’d draw stars on when I’d make my all-star teams. I don’t care. I’ll never sell them. Thanks for coming up with the idea of PFT. All us little boys who used to play electric football grew up and graduated to PFT. Keeping the dream alive! Thank you!

  17. Mike, thanks. Your story, artfully written, really brought back memories. My electric football Christmas was almost exactly like yours, except the big present was labeled ‘Dad’ (those sneaks), it was Cowboys – Rams and it was 1971. Soon the Cowboys would win their 1st SB and I felt like the luckiest kid ever. But I disagree with one thing: a 10 year old making up all-star teams with sports cards is not lame.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

  18. Thanks for the story Sir. I had an electric football game as well. Rocks. Thanks for the site. I and many of my friends check it daily. Merry Christmas

  19. In 1975 Too Tall Jones and Hollywood Henderson were roommates and rented a house two doors down from my house in Richardson, a mile away from the original practice facility.

  20. Wow, my first was the Browns /Giants model with the deluxe board ! Loved that game along with my Tudor Stanley cup Montreal/Toronto with the automatic puck drop. Ahh nostalgia

  21. Wonderful, wonderful memories and story which hits so close to home. I owned Chiefs Vikings Superbowl version and loved it.
    As much as I loved the game, i couldnt wait for the runner to get tackled as the annoying loud noise was too much. In the years i played the game and dozens of games I played,and had ndreds of pass attempts, I think k i might have completed 3 passes. Still i look back with very fond memories
    Thanks so much for sharing
    Merry Christmas PFT best football website bar none

  22. Great story, Mike. I remember the Sears Wishbook very well. It was one thing you waited for the mailman to bring. I looked long and hard at the football games, always circling the electric football game. My mom asked if I could find a not so expensive game. I said there’s that board game I can’t figure out – all it has are letters and numbers, yes and no, and this magnifying thing. Mom said she wasn’t going to buy that. I would have to settle for socks and underwear. Under the tree, a couple weeks later, it was the best electric football game they had at the time – Cowboys and Rams. I renamed the teams and played out the AFC West using my own script. The Raiders-Chiefs games were brutal, lol.

  23. Awesome column, especially for today. Merry Christmas, Mike and the rest of the PFT crew. Oh and on behalf of the many Festivus followers on PFT, a belated Happy Festivus to you and yours as well.

  24. Merry Christmas Mike and everyone at PFT and CFT. I never could get mine to do anything but go in circles, but great memories.

  25. I actually bought a new version for my brother a few years ago cause we remember playing when we were kids. From what he told me the players still move around the board in no particular order and chaos ensues. That game was literally impossible to play yet we couldn’t stop playing when we were kids. I remember one time we actually completed a pass because somehow the ball got stuck between the receiver’s arm and body. It was our greatest moment in electronic football history

  26. Dear Mike,
    Your work, website and appearances on SNFA is a great blessing to me. You are a gifted, balanced journalist and you give great insights and commentary to the game of football. Merry Christmas and may you have a huge year in 2019.

  27. Merry Christmas! May all children receive their “electric football” game this year, and may the New Year bring a Super Bowl trophy to a city that has never won one.

  28. I have been reading the stories on this website for many years. THIS is the first post that has compelled me to leave a comment. Florio, you have a way with words. I don’t always agree with your take and I thoroughly dislike the anti-raider bias (it’s hard to be a raider fan, man), but you always come with relevant information and a thoughtful insight that should be recognized. Thank you for giving back to the world in your way. I have been following your website since the earlier days; long before NBC. You deserve a lot of appreciation. You’re still my go to site for information and opinion (whether or not I agree with it). Thank you for speaking your mind, regardless of the consequences. You can’t please everyone, but you don’t even try. That’s what gets my ultimate respect. Merry Christmas to you. Happy Chanukah. Happy Chrismkah or Festivus.

  29. Merry Christmas, Mike!

    I remember loving the neighbor’s electric football, and that little foam football was especially cool. But what got me hooked on football was that it was the only sport in which I wasn’t utterly humiliated. Far from it.

    When they lined us up for school photos from short to tall, I was in front of the girls. But put me on a football field and my shoulder lined up with dudes’ stomachs. Ideal for tackling, running over people like Eric Metcalf or Stump Mitchell, whatever. There’s no way I could play the game now, but my love for it will never fade.

  30. Merry Christmas Mike ! Let me begin by saying thank you for sharing such a wonderful story, one that is very similar to mine.
    The year was 1972, I was 11 years old and I too had pegged Tudor Electric football SUPER BOWL version as #1 on my Christmas wish list. It was a hot toy that Christmas and therefore very difficult to obtain. Fortunately my brother had worked in Sears that Holiday season so I did strike gold and found it under my tree that Christmas. I’ll never forget what a sight that was to see that HUGE box, which seemed to take over half of my Living Room. My version had the Dolphin vs Redskins. so It didn’t take long for me to order an additional team, that being The MINNESOTA VIKINGS, My favorite team back then and also now more than ever. Also Being a big fan of the Black and Blue Division, I made a trade with my friend Louie, so I sent my Redskin team to him in exchange for his Green Bay Packer team. As of this day I still own it and it still works !!

    I enjoy watching your show by far more than any other sports show on TV. Keep up the good work and SKOL !

  31. Beautiful piece of writing, Mike. Your enthusiasm comes through always. I forget sometimes that this is at heart a blog and thus a place for you to elaborate on your own (well developed and legally honed) opinions. I see the world through a different lens, but your integrity and passion are evident. Merry Christmas to you, as well.

  32. Thanks Mike for sharing this story from your youth, as it brought back some of mine that were long forgotten. I was a young child when my father died in the late 60’s. I cannot remember professional sports being followed in our household. As the second youngest of 5 children, I didn’t get much choice of the programming on our TV. Sports for me was mainly neighborhood pickup games of whatever was in season.

    For me, I wanted the hockey game in the Sears catalog (the type you pushed, pulled and twisted the metal rods with the players attached) which was the best Christmas present I ever got as a kid (early 70s). It was Bruins vs Canadiens. It wasn’t long before I became a Bruins fan, watching fuzzy games on Boston’s channel 38. Soon i started following the Red Sox, then by the end of the 70’s the Patriots and Celtics too.

    I’ve never really thought about it, but that cherished hockey game, which was played with until there wasn’t much left to it, was a big inspiration to me in developing an interest in sports. Although she may not remember it as she is in her late 80’s, next time i see or talk to my mom, I’m going to thank her for that hockey game.

  33. My brother got this game sometime in the 60’s. A yellow team & a red team.Because there was no instant replay, The metal kicker/ passer catapult guy always caused a fight to breakout. One of us clearly threw a completed hail mary or kicked a 70 yard field goal and the other brother just never saw it. My mother or father would then put the game in the attic, we would lobby to get it out of time out and the process would repeat itself . I’m not sure whatever happened to it, It probably disappeared with my football and baseball cards when I went to college.
    Merry Christmas Mike, you’ve done a great job of turning your hobby into a career.

  34. josephhbaskin says:
    December 25, 2018 at 8:08 pm
    Beautiful piece of writing, Mike. Your enthusiasm comes through always. I forget sometimes that this is at heart a blog and thus a place for you to elaborate on your own (well developed and legally honed) opinions. I see the world through a different lens, but your integrity and passion are evident. Merry Christmas to you, as well.

    —–

    I am amazed that your comment got 5 times as many thumbs down as thumbs up. Must be people with really negative outlooks on life. I just don’t understand it.

  35. Had to be the most disappointing Christmas gift I ever got … what a dumb game!! I’d go with Foto Electric Football for something somewhat accurate.

  36. The only thing that’s missing from this story is Mom, teacher, and Santa telling you you’ll shoot your eye out. Merry Christmas to you too Mike.

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